‘We’ve Clearly Put The Senate Back To Work’

Stack Of Major Legislation Passed By The Republican Senate This Year Continues To Grow: Combating Opioids, FAA Legislation, Biotech Labeling, Puerto Rico Restructuring, Modernizing The Toxic Substances Control Act, Trade Secrets, FOIA Updates, North Korean Sanctions & More

SEN. MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY): ‘We’ve clearly put the Senate back to work’ (Sen. McConnell, Floor Remarks, 7/14/16)


CARA: ‘A Bill To Tackle The Nation’s Opioid Crisis’

SEN. GRASSLEY (R-IA): “I want to thank the authors of CARA for their leadership in crafting the legislation… Real lives will be saved … that's not something that we can say every day around this Senate.” (Sen. Grassley, Floor Remarks, 3/10/16)

“The Senate on Wednesday approved a bill to tackle the nation’s opioid crisis, sending to the president’s desk the most sweeping drug legislation in years in a rare instance of consensus in Congress.” (“Senate Approves Bill to Combat Opioid Addiction Crisis,” The New York Times, 7/13/2016)

“The measure, which passed, 92 to 2, would strengthen prevention, treatment and recovery efforts, largely by empowering medical professionals and law enforcement officials with more tools to help drug addicts.” (“Senate Approves Bill to Combat Opioid Addiction Crisis,” The New York Times, 7/13/2016)

“Public health advocates have lauded the bill as a crucial policy shift, recognizing addiction as a disease rather than a law enforcement problem.” (“Congress Sends First Major Opioids Bill To Obama's Desk,” The Hill, 7/13/2016)

FAA: ‘The Most Significant Airport Security Reform Bill In A Decade’

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD), Commerce Committee Chairman: “Today, Congress passed the most significant airport security reform bill in a decade… Reforms in our bill will help protect air travelers in South Dakota and around the country, and it will help ensure that attacks like those in Brussels and Istanbul do not happen in American airports. I’m proud of the Commerce Committee’s work in leading this effort, and I look forward to seeing the president sign this bill into law before the end of the week.” (Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, Press Release, 7/13/16)

“The Senate on Wednesday approved a bipartisan bill to extend the mandate of the Federal Aviation Administration… The legislation, which the Senate passed by a vote of 89-4, now must go to President Barack Obama to be signed into law. The compromise short-term extension includes many of the provisions Senate leaders had pushed for.” (“Senate Passes FAA Reauthorization Bill,” The Wall Street Journal, 7/13/16)

‘Ramp Up Airport Security’ “Senators backed a package of amendments to the long-term reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration that would ramp up airport security…” (“Senate Adopts Airport Security Amendments In FAA Bill,” The Hill, 4/7/16)

BIOTECH: ‘A National Standard For Labeling Will Put An End To A Fight That Has Roiled The Food Industry For Years’

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R-KS): “Tonight’s vote is the most important vote for agriculture in the last 20 years. We worked hard to ensure the marketplace works for everyone. I mean everyone. Our legislation allows farmers to continue using sound science to produce more food with less resources, gives flexibility to food manufacturers in disclosing information, and gives access to more food information that consumers demand.” (Sen. Roberts, Press Release, 7/8/16)

“A federal bill that would require labeling of foods made with genetically engineered ingredients passed a major hurdle in the Senate… significantly raising the odds that a national standard for labeling will put an end to a fight that has roiled the food industry for years.” (“G.M.O. Labeling Bill Clears First Hurdle in Senate,” The New York Times, 7/6/16)

“The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved legislation that would for the first time require food to carry labels listing genetically-modified ingredients... The Senate voted 63-30 for the bill that would display GMO contents with words, pictures or a bar code that can be scanned with smartphones. The U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) would decide which ingredients would be considered genetically modified. The measure now goes to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass.” (“U.S. GMO Food Labeling Bill Passes Senate,” Reuters, 7/8/16)

“A bill to create a federal labeling standard for foods with genetically modified ingredients and block states from issuing their own laws sailed through the House on Thursday. The bill, which passed by a 306 to 117 vote…” (“House Passes GMO Labeling Bill,” The Hill, 7/14/16)

“The White House plans to support legislation creating a national labeling standard for foods containing genetically modified organisms … White House spokeswoman Katie Hill said in an e-mail. ‘We look forward to tracking its progress in the House and anticipate the president would sign it in its current form.’” (“Obama Ready To Sign Food-Label Bill Consumer Groups Dislike,” Bloomberg, 7/13/16)

PUERTO RICO: PROMESA ‘An Example Of Conservative Reform In Action’

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): ‘With PROMESA, not a single taxpayer dime will be spent on paying Puerto Rico’s debt’ “The Puerto Rico Oversight Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) is an appropriate first step by Congress to deal with this calamity. The bill would create a fiscal oversight board to help fix the mess. …most importantly, with PROMESA, not a single taxpayer dime will be spent on paying Puerto Rico’s debt.” (Sen. Rubio, Op-Ed, “Helping Puerto Rico Without A Bailout,” Florida Today, 6/28/16)

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: “[T]he Republican Congress is using conservative principles to solve an urgent problem caused by progressive government... [T]he overall bill steers the commonwealth in the direction of free-market reforms and fiscal discipline after years of welfare-state politics.” (Editorial, “Puerto Rico Breakthrough,” The Wall Street Journal, 5/23/2016)

THE WASHINGTON POST: “[The bill] would put a temporary halt to lawsuits by creditors and put an oversight board, appointed on a bipartisan basis by Congress and the president, in charge of Puerto Rico’s finances. . . [N]ow the referee will be an impartial panel of experts armed with a reliable audit of the island’s obligations.” (Editorial, “Much-Needed Relief For Debt-Ridden Puerto Rico,” The Washington Post, 5/19/2016)

AMERICAN MANUFACTURING COMPETITIVENESS ACT: ‘Helping U.S. Manufacturers Save Billions In Costs’

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT): “This legislation helps American manufacturers level the playing field through tariff relief which lowers production costs on parts that simply can’t be found here at home. While long-overdue, this legislation represents a true bipartisan, bicameral commitment to helping our economy with more jobs, bigger paychecks, and a stronger American manufacturing base.” (Senate Finance Committee, Press Release, 5/10/2016)

“President Obama on Friday signed a long-delayed tariff relief bill aimed at helping U.S. manufacturers save billions in costs. . . The bill will overhaul the process for reducing or eliminating tariffs on imported inputs and products not available or in short supply domestically. . . Without a measure in place, manufacturers said that companies have faced an annual $748 million tax hike on manufacturing in the United States, representing a $1.85 billion loss to the U.S. economy.” (“Obama Signs Tariff-Relief Bill,” The Hill, 5/20/2016)

“Business groups have been urging Congress to renew the legislation since the last measure expired at the end of 2012.” (“Obama Signs Tariff-Relief Bill,” The Hill, 5/20/2016)

TSCA: ‘A Major Overhaul Of The Nation’s Primary Chemical Safety Law’

SEN. JIM INHOFE (R-OK): “This historic piece of environmental regulatory reform is a great example of the Republican-led Congress working for the American people by enacting meaningful and commonsense legislation... This soon-to-be law will protect and support millions of domestic jobs and spur economic growth for decades to come by providing regulatory certainty to encourage new manufacturing investment here at home, on American soil. It will safeguard interstate commerce while also protecting public health; it will strengthen transparency and oversight – holding EPA accountable to Congress and the American people – while also protecting small business from bureaucratic hurdles and burdensome mandates. The Lautenberg Act is long overdue, as it is the first major environmental reform to be enacted in over a quarter century.” (U.S. Senate Committee On Environment & Public Works, Press Release, 6/07/2016)

“The Senate on Tuesday gave final approval to an overhaul of the nation’s 40-year-old law governing the use of toxic chemicals in homes and businesses, sending the bill to President Obama for his expected signature. The Senate passed the measure on a voice vote; the House approved it last month, 403 to 12.” (“Senate Approves Update of Toxic-Chemical Regulations,” The New York Times, 6/7/16)

“The bipartisan accord represents the most sweeping environmental measure to pass Congress in a quarter-century. The bill, which drew support from the chemical industry, trial lawyers and many public health and environmental groups, updates a 40-year-old law long criticized as ineffective.” (“Sweeping Overhaul Of Nation’s Chemical-Safety Laws Clears Final Legislative Hurdle,” The Washington Post, 6/7/16)

“The measure—H.R. 2576… the most far-reaching and influential environmental statute passed by Congress since the body updated the Clean Air Act in 1990.” (“United States Poised To Approve Major Chemical Safety Overhaul,” Science Magazine, 5/25/16)

TRADE SECRETS: ‘Defending The Processes, Blueprints, And Recipes That Underpin Hundreds Of Billions Of Annual Revenues And Millions Of Jobs’

“The Senate on Monday passed legislation to authorize companies to go directly to federal court to fight trade-secret theft, an avenue that has been unavailable when defending the processes, blueprints, and recipes that underpin hundreds of billions of annual revenues and millions of jobs.” (“Senate Passes Trade-Secrets Bill,” The Wall Street Journal, 4/4/16)

“After languishing for more than three years... The Defend Trade Secrets Act sailed through the Senate this past week with no opposition.” (“Lawyers Ready to Reap Work From Federal Trade Secrets Act,” The Recorder, 4/8/16)

INTERNET TAX FREEDOM: ‘For Years, The Drive In Congress To Permanently Bar Taxes On Internet Service Has Languished’

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): “For successful 21st century innovators and entrepreneurs, the Internet is their lifeblood… We should be celebrating their success, not taxing the tools they use to achieve it. Our bill… would permanently ban Internet taxation…” (Sen. Thune, Press Release, 2/10/15)

“State and local governments would be permanently barred from taxing access to the Internet under a bipartisan compromise that Congress is a step away from sending to President Barack Obama. The Senate was expected to vote Thursday to approve the language, part of a wide-ranging measure that would also revamp trade laws.” (“Congress Likely To Give Final Ok To Local Internet Tax Ban,” AP, 2/11/16)

  • “Since 1998, in the Internet's early days, Congress has passed a series of bills temporarily prohibiting state and local governments from imposing the types of monthly levies for online access that are common for telephone service. … For years, the drive in Congress to permanently bar taxes on Internet service has languished…” (“Congress Likely To Give Final Ok To Local Internet Tax Ban,” AP, 2/11/16)

NORTH KOREA: ‘Legislation That Would Impose Tighter Sanctions Against North Korea’ Now Law

SEN. CORY GARDNER (R-CO): “The new sanctions against North Korea represent a positive first step toward putting serious pressure on this belligerent regime, and I am encouraged that the Administration has acted swiftly to implement portions of my North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act.” (Sen. Gardner, Press Release, 3/16/16)

“President Obama on Thursday signed into law legislation that would impose tighter sanctions against North Korea after that country's recent nuclear and missile tests.” (“Obama Signs North Korea Sanctions Bill Into Law,” Washington Examiner, 2/18/16)

“The legislation comes in response to frustration on both sides of the aisle that President Barack Obama's policies toward North Korea have failed to stop its outlaw behavior. The bill passed 96-0.” (“Senate Approves New North Korea Sanctions,” CNN, 2/10/16)

“Most of the bill’s new sanctions on North Korea are mandatory, forcing the president to freeze the assets and impose travel bans on anyone engaging in trade or financial transactions that support the country’s nuclear, weapons, precious metals and raw materials industries, human rights abuses, and cyber threats.” (“Senate Passes North Korea Sanctions Bill As Nuclear Worries Grow,” The Washington Post, 2/10/16)


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): “An open and transparent government is paramount to a healthy democracy… This legislation will update and strengthen existing law to ensure the American people can better access information from their government…” (Sen. Cornyn, Press Release, 3/15/16)

“President Barack Obama signed a bill Thursday aimed at improving the government's often-sluggish responses to Freedom of Information Act requests.” (“Obama Signs FOIA Reform Bill,” Politico, 6/30/16)

“When it comes to providing government records the public is asking to see, the Obama administration is having a hard time finding them. In the final figures released during President Barack Obama's presidency, the U.S. government set a record last year for the number of times federal employees told disappointed citizens, journalists and others that despite searching they couldn't find a single page of files requested under the Freedom of Information Act. In more than one in six cases, or 129,825 times, government searchers said they came up empty-handed, according to a new Associated Press analysis.” (“US Gov’t Sets Record for Failures to Find Files When Asked,” AP, 3/18/16)

CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: The Most Comprehensive Overhaul Of Customs Law In Decades’

SEN. HATCH (R-UT): “Years of stagnation had enabled countless trade problems to accumulate, many of them crying for legislative resolution. Today, Congress responded and moved to enact legislation that will strengthen and modernize U.S. international trade institutions and policies for generations to come. This is a big win for American job creators and the future of trade policy in our country. Even more, it further underscores that through bipartisan persistence and hard work Congress can accomplish great things.” (Senate Finance Committee, Press Release, 2/11/2016)

“The Senate gave overwhelming final approval Thursday to the most comprehensive overhaul of customs law in decades, giving presidents new tools to combat unfair trade . . .” (“Senate Sends Sweeping Trade Enforcement Bill to Obama,” The New York Times, 2/11/2016)

  • “The 10-year customs bill includes an overhaul of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, streamlines trade rules that aim to keep importers from skirting U.S. antidumping and countervailing duties, adds new protections for intellectual property rights and provides more tools to identify and crack down on currency manipulation.” (“Customs Bill Expected To Clear Senate On Thursday,” The Hill, 2/09/2016)

2015: ‘In Its First Year, The 114th Congress Solved Big, Entrenched Problems…’

(“Beneath The Battles, A Congress That Worked,” National Journal, 12/18/15)

“…Senate Republicans racked up a series of legislative accomplishments last year, including a transportation infrastructure bill, a major education bill and the two-year budget deal…” (“For Reid, Supreme Court Vacancy Offers A Final Fight Before Retirement,” The New York Times, 3/14/16)

“You Can’t Call It A Do Nothing Congress… Congress has struck deals on major highway and education bills. ... Don’t look now, but Congress is actually about to get a lot done.” (“You Can’t Call It A Do Nothing Congress Anymore,” Fortune, 12/2/15)

  • “…Senate Republicans Look to Rack Up More Wins: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Senate is on a roll — and he wants to make sure it stays that way. After reviving Trade Promotion Authority, the Kentucky Republican opted to move next to a bipartisan rewrite of the No Child Left Behind education law in a bid to maintain the chamber’s legislative momentum.” (“After Trade Triumph, Senate Republicans Look To Rack Up More Wins,” Roll Call, 7/7/15)

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY: First Significant Reforms To Social Security Since 1983

‘Senators … Clamoring For Entitlement Reform Should Welcome These Changes’

SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY REFORMS: “In a political era more known for conflict than compromise, the two-year budget deal that emerged the following Monday came as something of a surprise. The $80 billion package reverses sequester cuts to the Pentagon and other domestic accounts. The agreement also prevents an increase in premiums for seniors on Medicare and halts looming cuts to Social Security Disability recipients. And it raises the debt limit through March 2017 -- well after Obama will have left the White House.” (“In Getting A Budget Deal Passed, Boehner And McConnell Faced A Pivotal Choice,” LA Times, 10/31/15)

MEDICARE REFORMS: “The annual charade of blocking Clinton-era cuts to Medicare has officially ended.” (“The ‘F’ Word: Could Congress Become Functional?,” Fox News, 4/15/15)

  • SEN. HATCH (R-UT): “The bill also represents a step forward in the effort to reform our nation's entitlement programs. The bill contains bipartisan reforms to the Medicare program - and it's not limited to fixing the broken SGR system. To go along with the permanent SGR fix, the bill includes a meaningful down payment on Medicare reform, without any accompanying tax hikes. These reforms include a limitation on so-called Medigap first-dollar coverage, more robust means testing for Medicare Parts B and D, and program integrity provisions that will strengthen Medicare's ability to fight fraud. …any Senators who, like me, have been clamoring for entitlement reform should welcome these changes.” (Sen. Hatch, Press Release, 4/13/15)

TAX RELIEF: Breaking ‘Congress’ Habit Of Extending Lapsed Tax Breaks Retroactively’

“…on track to win permanent renewal of tax breaks for individuals and businesses.” (“Winners, Losers In Congress' Year-End Budget And Tax Endgame,” AP, 12/16/15)

“The tax bill would permanently extend nearly two dozen tax breaks for businesses and individuals while temporarily extending others. … The credits being permanently extended include:

  • An expanded Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income earners;
  • The Child Tax Credit for low and moderate income workers;
  • The American Opportunity Tax Credit to help students under age 40 pay college tuition and expenses;
  • Low income housing credits;
  • An expanded research and experimentation credit;
  • Section 179 business expensing, which allows businesses to fully deduct the price of equipment and software investments;
  • State and local sales tax deduction;
  • Tax deductions for food inventory donated to food banks;
  • A deduction for land donated for conservation; and
  • A tax break for individuals to donate to charity from qualified retirement accounts.”

(“Congress Reaches Year-End Deal On Taxes And Spending,” Washington Post, 12/15/15)

HIGHWAY Bill: First Long-Term Bill Since 2005, Longest Since 1998

‘A Legislative Coup A Decade In The Making’

“Congress reaches deal on 5-year highway bill …a legislative coup a decade in the making… delivering a long-term, fully funded highway and transit bill to the White House would be a major coup — the first time Congress has accomplished the feat since George W. Bush was in the White House.” (“Congress Reaches Deal On 5-Year Highway Bill,” Politico, 12/1/15)

  • “…legislative feat that lawmakers and President Barack Obama have struggled throughout his administration to achieve. The bill, unveiled Tuesday, would also put an end to the cycle of temporary extensions and threatened shutdowns of transportation programs that have bedeviled Congress for the past seven years, making it difficult for states to plan long-term projects.” (“Congress Reaches Deal On 5-Year Transportation Bill,” AP, 12/1/15)

EDUCATION: First Significant Reforms Since 2001

‘The Largest Devolution Of Federal Control To The States In A Quarter-Century’

EDUCATION REFORMS: “A bipartisan compromise has emerged from the Senate and House that ... would represent the largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century. It’s far better than the status quo that would continue if nothing passes.” (Editorial, “No Child Left Behind’s Successor,” The Wall Street Journal, 11/29/2015)

TRADE: First Broad TPA Bill Since 2002

‘TPA-2015 Expands On Administration Transparency And Consultation Obligations’

TRADE PROMOTION AUTHORITY:The Republican-controlled Congress delivered… passing a six-year renewal of trade promotion authority intended to advance one of the largest trade pacts in history later this year. ‘This is a critical day for our country. In fact, I'd call it an historic day,’ said Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who co-authored the bill the Senate approved on Wednesday, 60 to 38. ‘This is perhaps the most important bill we'll pass in the Senate this year.’” (“‘Fast Track’ Trade Bill Renews,” USA Today, 6/25/15)


‘The Senate Put Our Veterans First’

HOLDING THE VA ACCOUNTABLE: “A sweeping independent review of the Department of Veterans Affairs health-care system made public Friday shows the multibillion-dollar agency has significant flaws, including a bloated bureaucracy, problems with leadership and a potentially unsustainable capital budget. … The assessments, weighing in at more than 4,000 pages total, were mandated by the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, commonly known as the Veterans Choice Act, a more than $16 billion emergency funding measure passed last summer in the wake of a systemwide scandal at the VA.” (“A Needs ‘Systemwide Reworking,’ Independent Report Finds,” The Wall Street Journal, 9/18/15)

CLAY HUNT SUICIDE PREVENTION FOR AMERICAN VETERANS ACT: “The bill requires independent reviews of VA and Department of Defense programs aimed at preventing suicide, creates peer support and community outreach pilot programs, and forms a program to repay loan debt for psychiatry students to incentivize them to work in the VA health system. It also creates a website to provide veterans with information about mental health services and allows the VA to collaborate with nonprofit mental health organizations on suicide prevention.” (“Obama Signs Suicide Prevention Bill To Aid Veterans,” U.S. News, 2/12/15)

VETERANS CHOICE ACT: “What is the Veterans Choice Act? This federal program sets aside $10 billion throughout three years for veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility or who find themselves waiting more than 30 days for an appointment. The program allows them to be seen at a participating community health center.” (“VA Opens More Doors To Rural Veterans In Virginia,” Daily Press, 12/7/15)


NDAA: ‘Contains Hundreds Of Provisions To Assist The Military’

DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT: “The Senate overwhelmingly passed a revised annual defense policy bill, sending the measure to President Obama's desk for a second time.  The Senate voted 91-3 on the $607-billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which lays out broad defense policy requirements and restrictions. … The legislation, which passed the House by a 370-58 vote last week, includes restrictions on transferring detainees out of Guantanamo Bay, adding roadblocks to a long-standing campaign pledge from Obama to close the facility.” (“Senate Sends Revised Defense Bill To Obama's Desk,” The Hill, 11/10/15)


‘Senate … Passed A Major Piece Of Cybersecurity Legislation’

MAJOR CYBER SECURITY REFORM: “The Senate on Tuesday passed a major piece of cybersecurity legislation intended to stem the flood of cyberattacks on both government agencies and private companies. The so-called Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), a piece of legislation years in the making, passed 74-21. The House approved companion legislation in April, so the cybersecurity measure is now on track to reach President Obama’s desk and be signed into law...” (“Senate Passes First Major Cyber Bill In Years,” The Hill, 10/27/15)


Related Issues: Jobs, Education, Free Trade, Cybersecurity, FAA, America's Military, Entitlement Reform, Infrastructure, Veterans, Energy, Economy, NDAA, Restoring the Senate, Highway Bill, Back to Work, Combating Sex Trafficking, Middle Class, Every Student Succeeds Act